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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Thailand Beyond the Fringe

Author Robert Cooper, whose previous books include Culture Shock! Thailand and The Thais Mean Business has another book on the Bookazine shelves, Thailand Beyond the Fringe (ISBN 978-981-261-429-2, Marshall Cavendish, 2007).
This latest book is a collection of very short essays, much like Culture Shock! Thailand, with each only between one to three pages long. He does not mince his words in his descriptions of foreigners, such as in the piece on “Vanishing Virginity” where he opines that virginity is still an important state and writes, “This might surprise some of those less perceptive farang, who think that all Thais are whores.”
The language does tend to be earthy (or even downright crude) which I have to say I do not appreciate in the written word. Gratuitous at best.
There are 100 vignettes and as a nice touch, there is a postscript at the end of each one, with witty bon mots, such as, “On finding your wife dancing naked in your local, don’t change the bar, change the wife.”
Ostensibly, the book is a primer for foreigners so they will not commit gaffes, and eventually rise up through the society levels in Thailand. This book does not really do that. Many of the chapters are simply contrived, such as the several pages given over to inverted nipples, with this affliction being touted as demonstrating high classes within the Thai society. Perhaps thought of as a light and humorous break, the descriptions of the quest in finding this anatomical diversion were tiresome, rather than tittersome.
There are, however, some chapters which do get down to the nitty gritty of Thai society, such as the one on Matriarchy, Mothers and Money. Despite what the Bangkok Thais might lead you to believe, it is the women who run the country and rule the roost. Author Cooper mentions the Thai phrase which described women as the “hind legs of the elephant”, but then goes on to show that the women are the dominant force these days. Since all foreigners who marry Thais end up with a Thai mother-in-law, there are some very pertinent facts in this chapter. The bottom line postscript reads, “Love your Mother-in-law and your wife will love you.”
Unfortunately, he has too many irrelevant chapters in this book which not only cheapens the publication, but also weakens the message in the better and more salient chapters. For example, a chapter called “On masturbating alone” does very little for me, or for the majority of readers I would imagine. Exhorting one to ensure that one is not noticed by others when in ‘flagrante delicto’ would have to be fairly obvious, I am sure.
At the end of the book is one section denoting words that author Cooper advises the reader not to use (so why spell them out, I wonder) followed by an explanation of some Thai words used in the text.
This is a weighty book and at B. 550, reasonably priced. It does have many vignettes of life in Thailand, but there is a little too much repetition. I would have preferred longer and better chapters..